Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Hold-Up In Getting A Working Iraqi Government

The main political negotiations going on in Iraq today are between the major lists, and what ministries they will control. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has thirty days to put together his cabinet. Despite his party’s assurances, many question whether he will be able to accomplish that within the given timeframe. While those talks are going on, there are parallel discussions occurring in the parliament over forming committees. Leaders in the legislature have met several times and decided that no list can control a ministry and the related committee. If the Iraqi National Movement gets the Foreign Affairs Ministry for example, it can’t have the chairmanship of the same committee in parliament. That poses a problem for the lawmakers because they won’t be able to name the committee heads until Maliki completes his talks, and they know who all the ministers are. That means the work of the legislature is on hold until all the horse-trading is over, posing just the latest delay to face Iraq’s slow march towards forming a new government.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Iraq’s Defense and Interior Ministries won’t be assigned for independent elements, al-Iraqiya MP says,” 11/22/10
- “Urgent: Iraqi Parliament convenes session to discuss internal system,” 11/23/10

Al-Haffar, Hassoun, “SLC: Maliki will succeed in forming government within given time,” AK News, 11/27/10

Al-Issa, Fadi, “Blocs close to agreement on leadership of parliamentary committees says MP,” AK News, 11/24/10

MEMRI Staff, “News Summary from Iraq,” MEMRI Blog, 11/24/10

Al-Ziyadi, Khilood, “Formation of committees discussed in Parliament,” AK News, 11/22/10

Towards A New Iraqi Government With Useless Positions And Ethnosectarian Quotas

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdish parliamentarian Mahmoud Othman recently said that there would be an increase in the top positions in Iraq, and that those would be divided along ethnosectarian lines. First, Maliki told the press that there would be 39 ministries this time, up from 37, and three deputy prime ministers instead of two as in the previous administration. One new office would be the Ministry of National Reconciliation, while the deputy premiers would be given responsibility for the economy, energy, and services. Mahmoud Othman, a senior lawmaker of the Kurdish Coalition also noted that the top jobs would be distributed not just by the point system that had been created, but also on an ethnosectarian basis and to balance the various political parties

Since the new government will be a national unity one, all of the winning parties are expected to get a spot, which means there is a great demand for ministries, offices, and deputies. The easiest way to accommodate them is to create new positions whether they’re needed or not. There are already three ministers without portfolio for example, and a Ministry of National Dialogue and a Minister of Civil Society, which would make a new Ministry of National Reconciliation redundant. Giving all the winning parties a seat at the table, and more importantly, a ministry to dish out jobs and patronage, seem to be more important than an efficient government. The previous ruling coalitions in Iraq were also based upon ethnicity and sect. The premier, president, and speaker of parliament for example have always been a Shiite, a Kurd, and a Sunni since 2005. Deputies and other offices are likely to be distributed in a similar manner this time around to make each major group within the country happy. This system is setting the stage for another large and unwieldy government, just like the last one created in 2006.


Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, “Iraq Status Report,” U.S. Department of State, 11/17/10

Elaph, Al-Hayat, Al-Zaman, Al-Mada, “Maliki, To Be Officially Designated To Form Iraqi Government, Is Already In Action,” MEMRI Blog, 11/22/10

Ibrahim, Haider, “No minister assigned without my consent says Maliki,” AK News, 11/27/10

Saifaddin, Dilshad, “Assigning ministries not dependent on points only, says lawmaker,” AK News, 11/27/10

U.S. Worried About Turnover In Iraqi Bureaucracy With New Government

Iraqi politicians are currently negotiating over which parties will control which ministries as part of the new government. U.S. officials are worried about what this might mean for the millions of dollars that they have spent trying to improve Iraq’s bureaucracy. For example, the Americans have expended $264.65 million on the Economic Support Fund, which trains Iraqis to be more efficient in spending their budget, and is currently helping with Iraq’s four-year National Development Plan. The U.S. is afraid that when new political parties take over the ministries they will get rid of large number of employees and replace them with their own followers. Ministries have been used as a major form of patronage by the lists to maintain and gain support, and provide jobs for their members. That could mean massive turnover and the loss of institutional knowledge, and several years of training that the Americans have provided to increase efficiency and institutional capacity. Similar fears were expressed after the January 2009 provincial elections, but they didn’t seem to change much. The ministries are much larger and important however, and involve far more employees. 


Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/10

Al-Wanan, Jaafar, “Maliki demands for selected ministries for new government,” AK News, 11/24/10

Monday, November 29, 2010

Maliki Releasing Militiamen As Part Of Deal To Stay In Power

The above cartoon accompanied an article from Shat News that claimed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki released six members of a gang in Karbala, five of which were on death row, as part of a political deal to remain in office. It went on to say that there have been similar reports in other parts of the country. The Los Angeles Times had a story recently of many members of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army being set free as part of the negotiations that secured Sadr's support for Maliki's second term. According to the Times, some were even given jobs in the security forces after they left prison. The release of his followers was a major demand of Sadr, and has led some to worry about what these militiamen will do now that they are back on the streets. Cracking down on the Sadrists in 2008 was one of the main events that cemented Maliki's credentials as a strong leader, and securing the country was a major part of his campaign in the 2010 elections. Now, due to political expediency, he has made an agreement with the very people he built his reputation upon to keep his job.


Chulov, Martin, "How Iran brokered a secret deal to put its ally in power," Guardian, 10/17/10 

Latif, Nizar, "Sadrists wait for their government rewards," The National, 11/21/10 

Parker, Ned, "Sadr sees star rise again in Iraq," Los Angeles Times, 11/25/10 

Shat News, "The release of six sentenced to death of the outlaw in political deal, " 11/22/10

Iraq’s Interior Ministry Absolves Official Of Buying Useless Bomb Detectors

Iraq spent $85 mil on these worthless bomb detectors, and then refused to recall them

In 2007 Iraq’s Interior Ministry began buying bomb detector wands from an English company.  Despite repeated warnings from the U.S. military, tests and investigations that all showed the devices were useless the Ministry stood by them. That all culminated in Interior Minister Jawad Bolani issuing an amnesty order for the officer responsible for the purchase to protect him from possible fraud charges.

In 2007 the Interior Ministry began buying ADE-651 bomb detector wands from ATSC, a British company owned by Jim McCormick. Up to $85 million was spent on them in a no-bid contract. The devices were distributed throughout the country, and became a common feature at checkpoints. According to ATSC, the devices could find guns, ammunition, drugs, truffles, human bodies, and contraband ivory through walls, water, the earth, and even in planes flying overhead. The wands had no batteries, and were supposed to be powered by static electricity generated by the operator walking in place for a short period of time. Once a person had moved around enough, they were to point the ADE-651 at a vehicle or package and it would point at any contraband. It would seem that any legitimate government agency would be skeptical of such lavish claims, but the Interior Ministry went ahead and bought several hundred from 2007-2009 for an average price of around $40,000-$60,000 a piece.

As soon as Iraq purchased the wands, the U.S. began protesting. The Americans told the Iraqis that the devices were a scam. In 2008 for example, a group of U.S. officers asked Iraqi soldiers to demonstrate the wands on a group of cars, one of which was loaded with explosives. The test failed, and the entire time the Iraqis were checking the vehicles, a U.S. soldier who had C4 in his uniform accompanied them. In June 2009 U.S. military scientists released a report that found that the only electronics within the wands was a simple anti-theft chip. The BBC also did an investigation where Cambridge University found that there was nothing in the devices that could detect bombs.

In 2009 ATSC came under suspicion by the British authorities, which led to an investigation in Iraq. In January 2010 ATSC’s owner McCormick was arrested in England for fraud, and London banned the export of the ADE-651s. Members of the Security Committee in Iraq’s parliament demanded an investigation as a result, claiming that corruption was involved in the contract. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered a review, which found that around 50% were fake or defective, but in general the wands worked. Iraqi forces continued to use them at checkpoints as a result, while officials expressed confidence in them. Minister Bolani claimed that the wands were responsible for the discovery of 16,000 bombs.

Eventually the Inspector General of the Interior Ministry looked into the purchase of the wands. In October 2010 they announced that the ADE-651s did not work, but they could not do anything about their purchase because Interior Minister Bolani had invoked Article 136(b) that allows top officials to stop any criminal investigation. The Inspector General went on to say that hundreds of Iraqis had died because of the devices, but that they were still being used in checkpoints around the country.

The whole episode smacks of the institutionalized corruption and incompetence that is found throughout the Iraqi government. No one should have believed that the ADE-651s worked. The claims about the device’s abilities were too good to be true. More to the point, after the Americans repeatedly told the Iraqis about their ineffectiveness, and various studies had come out that proved they did not work, the Interior Ministry should’ve stopped their use. Instead officials again and again said they believed in them. The Ministry even made a bogus report to absolve itself, and then the Interior Minister blocked his own Inspector General from investigating the purchase of the wands. The Inspector General noted that the cost of this fiasco was the deaths of hundreds of people, and yet they were still deployed across Iraq. It seems to protect themselves the leadership of the Interior Ministry are willing to allow their own people to be killed rather than admit their mistake, and recall the wands.


Chulov, Martin, “Iraq MPs bid to remove bomb detector,” Guardian, 1/24/10

Loftus, Jack, “ADE-651 Magic Wand Bomb Detector Is a Fraud, Probably Killed Hundreds,” Gizmodo, 1/24/10

Londono, Ernesto, “In Iraq, no magic, or any use, for these wands,” Washington Post, 11/3/10

Nordland, Rod, “Iraq Swears by Bomb Detector U.S. Sees as Useless,” New York Times, 11/3/09

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 10/30/10

UPI, “Iraqis say bomb sniffer wands worthless,” 11/2/10

Yacoub, Sameer, “Bomb-Detecting Wands to Be Kept in Service in Iraq,” Associated Press, 2/23/10

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Will Iraq Be Able To Keep Its M1A1 Abrams Tanks And Other Major Equipment Running?

The Iraqi government is currently receiving 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks from the United States. Baghdad also wants to buy 18 F-16 fighters. This is part of the Defense Ministry’s plans to shift from internal counterinsurgency operations to external defense by 2020. Iraq could face a major obstacle in achieving this goal, which is unless it budgets for maintenance, all of this equipment could go for naught.

Maintenance is one of the institutional problems that Iraq’s security forces face. The contracts for American equipment go through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. The deals include spare parts, but do not include maintenance. The Iraqi forces already have a bad habit of running vehicles until they break, and then cannibalizing parts from others rather than doing preventive maintenance. The June 2010 Department of Defense’s “Measuring Stability and Security In Iraq” report warned that the Defense Ministry doesn’t have the ability to sustain major equipment. That’s because it lacks the funds to train and maintain workers for the task, and lacks long-term contracts for repairs. Currently 70-80% of the Ministry of Defense’s budget goes to salaries and basic supplies such as food, water, etc. for the troops. Much of the rest is spent on purchasing major pieces of hardware such as the Abrams tanks. That leaves little money for repair work. Earlier reports from April and July 2009 by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction also noted that that U.S. had turned over maintenance facilities to the Iraqis as part of their withdrawal plan even though the Iraqis couldn’t operate them, and that the Defense Ministry showed no commitment to send soldiers for training in repairs either. All of these factors undercut Iraq’s ability to have a self-sustaining military.

All together this could threaten the long-term use of the Abrams tanks, F-16 fighters, and any other sophisticated equipment that Iraq wants to buy. Unless Baghdad makes a commitment to maintain these weapons, and budgets the necessary funds for that task, many of these hi-tech systems could end up in the scrap heap. That would make Iraq a weak country that is open to influence by its more powerful neighbors, and extend the time that Baghdad looks towards the Americans for protection rather than being able to defend itself.


Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq June 2010,” 9/7/10

International Crisis Group, “Loose Ends: Iraq’s Security Forces Between U.S. Drawdown And Withdrawal,” 10/26/10

Najm, Hayder, “iraq’s soldiers not ready to take over security,” Niqash, 8/19/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Developing A Depot Maintenance Capability At Taji Hampered By Numerous Problems,” 7/30/09
- “Security Forces Logistics Contract Experienced Certain Cost, Outcome, and Oversight Problems,” 4/26/09

Friday, November 26, 2010

Oil Companies Begin Work In Iraq, But How Many Jobs Will They Provide?

When Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani signed oil contracts with foreign companies in 2009 he promised up to 100,000 new jobs for Iraqis. Now that those corporations have begun work in southern Iraq it’s yet to be seen whether that many people will find employment.

Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum (BP), China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), and Petronas have all started operating in Basra province. Shell and Malaysia’s Petronas won a contract for the Majnoon field with 12.58 billion barrels of reserves. BP-CNPC successfully bid on the Rumaila field with reserves of 7.3 billion barrels. They already have seven rigs drilling new wells, and want to drill 40 more by the end of the year. They are also building a new compound in the Rumaila field to house hundreds of their employees. As a result the state-run South Oil Company, which is in a joint venture with BP-CNPC has hired five hundred new workers. The corporation has also sent in 100 new managers, but those were all expatriate Iraqis. The contracts signed last year require the foreign businesses to invest in and train new Iraqi employees. The country is short managers, supervisors, and engineers. There are two problems however. Since BP, CNPC, and others need workers now they are likely to use their own or hire foreign ones since Iraq doesn’t have enough right now. Also, the petroleum industry is not labor intensives. That means even at its best, there would not be a lot of jobs available from these contracts.

If Iraq is looking for employment, it will have to hope for spin-off work instead. Doing business in Iraq requires a huge amount of infrastructure improvements such as new roads, power plants, reservoirs, oil storage facilities, pipelines, and rehabilitating and expanding ports. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs claimed that this construction work could lead to up to 1.3 million jobs, and that contracts will require 85% of the workers to be Iraqis. The government can only hope for such a development as the country suffers from high unemployment and underemployment, especially amongst the young, with 57% of 15-29 year olds having no jobs. Not only that, but 240,000 new people enter the labor force each year. The two are intimately connected. Without the increased oil production, there would not be enough money to pay for all the other development projects. Iraq is depending upon this job boom otherwise it might turn out to be a typical oil country where the largest industry provides all the nation’s funds, but few jobs, so the government creates thousands of useless ones simply to prevent social unrest.


Canty, Daniel, “Iraq’s skill shortage: Challenge vs. Opportunity,” Arabian Oil and Gas, 5/5/10

Cummins, Chip, “Iraq’s Oil Patch Opens the Spigot,” Wall Street Journal, 11/11/10

Daood, Mayada, “12 million barrels of oil promise to solve unemployment problem,” Niqash, 2/12/10

Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq June 2010,” 9/7/10

Reed, Stanley and Razzouk, Nayla, “Iraq’s Economy Wakes Up,” Business Week, 4/22/10

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Anbar Protests Stop Natural Gas Deal Being Signed

In October 2010 three natural gas fields were auctioned off by Iraq. The inclusion of Akkas in Anbar angered local politicians there (Energy-Pedia News)

On October 20, 2010 Iraq’s Oil Ministry held a successful bidding round for three natural gas fields. One of those was Akkas in Anbar province, which was won by a consortium of South Korea’s KOGAS and Kazakhstan’s KazMunai Gas. That same day provincial officials organized protests over the auction. That has held up the signing of the contract for Akkas.

Anbar’s provincial officials made several complaints about the Akkas field being bid on. First, they said that Akkas should be under local control, and that the companies should hire workers from the province. Second, they want guarantees from the Oil Ministry that any gas produced will be used for local electricity plants, and not be shipped off to Baghdad or exported. Third, the provincial council claimed their concerns were being ignored by the central government. They quoted Article 109 of the constitution, which says that Baghdad will work with the local authorities to develop the country’s natural resources. 

Because of these issues the Anbar council rejected the Akkas auction. They said that the companies would not be allowed to work in the governorate, that they would not provide security, threatened a civil revolt and a possible lawsuit against the Oil Ministry. As a result KOGAS and KazMunai Gas refused to sign the deal with the Ministry until Anbar approved it. 

The problems between Anbar and Baghdad started earlier in the year. For one, the Oil Ministry refused a proposal to have Turkish and German companies develop Akkas, as well as another offer by a Korean consortium. The central government also turned down a proposal by the UAE’s Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas to invest $60 billion in the province to set up a gas center there. The Oil Ministry had blacklisted both firms for working in Kurdistan’s oil industry.

The Oil Ministry is trying to work out its differences with Anbar. They said talks would hopefully be concluded by the end of November, and that would allow the Akkas deal to move forward. Until then the foreign consortium is unlikely to sign anything as the threats and complaints by the local politicians have scared them off for now.


Ajrash, Kadhim and Razzouk, Nayla, “Companies Sign Agreements To Develop Mansouriya, Siba Gas Fields,” Bloomberg, 11/14/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “Turkish-led consortium wins third Iraq gas field,” 10/20/10

Al-Badrani, Fadhil, “Iraq province says foreign gas firms are unwelcome,” Reuters, 10/22/10

Carlisle, Tamsin, “Two steps forward, one step back for Iraqi oil ministry,” The National, 11/19/10

Institute for War & Peace Reporting, “Local Governments Oppose Baghdad Gas Deals,” 10/22/10

Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraq gas auction fizzles despite hopes,” Associated Press, 10/20/10

Iraq Includes Kurdish Exports In 2011 Draft Budget

The Kurdish Coalition has made their oil deals and exports a major demand in backing any new Iraqi government. In 2009 Kurdistan was allowed to sell their petroleum abroad for a short period of time before it got into a new dispute with Baghdad over who would pay the foreign companies pumping the oil. It’s now expected that whenever Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki puts together a ruling coalition, and all the ministries are assigned to the major parties that a new agreement between the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the central authorities will be worked out. The technocrats at the Oil and Finance Ministries are expecting the same as they have recently included 100,000 barrels a day in Kurdish exports as part of their estimates for Iraq’s income in the 2011 budget

The KRG has signed contracts with 30 foreign companies to develop its oil industry. They are all hoping that they can eventually shift from exploring for oil to actually pumping it. Currently only two fields, Taq Taq in Irbil and Tawke in Dohuk, are producing. Baghdad has declared all of the Kurdish petroleum deals illegal because they did not go through the Oil Ministry. The new government may break this deadlock and come to a modus operandi with the Kurds that will make all the parties involved happy.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Govt. sets barrel price at $73 in 2011 budget,” 11/20/11

Carlisle, Tamsin, “Two steps forward, one step back for Iraqi oil ministry,” The National, 11/19/10

DeYoung, Karen, “As Iraqis forged agreement, U.S. remained influential, administration says,” Washington Post, 11/13/10

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Iraqi Government Expected By Early 2011

November 25, 2010 is the expected date that President Jalal Talabani will officially send a letter to Nouri al-Maliki making him the prime minister designee. After that Maliki will have 30 days to put together a new ruling coalition. A new government shouldn’t be expected until early next year however.

The main sticking point will be dividing up the various ministries. Iraq currently has 37 cabinet positions. The government run paper Al-Sabah reported that 18 ministries will go to the National Coalition that consists of Maliki’s State of Law and the Sadrist-Supreme Council-led Iraqi National Alliance, nine will be assigned to Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement (INM), the Kurdish Coalition will get seven, and one post will be given to the Christians. There has also been talk about expanding the number of ministries and deputies to meet all the demand from the parties.

The lists have created a numerical system to divide up the main offices. Each list will be assigned a number of points calculated by multiplying the number of seats they won times two. Those will then be expended upon posts that are given a score based upon their importance. Allawi’s INM for example won 91 seats, which means they have 182 points. The top spots in the country, prime minister, premier, speaker, and head of the National Council for Strategic Policies all cost 15 points. INM received the speakership and the head of the new council, which means they have spent 30 points already. The parties have already created a committee to discuss who gets what. The second deputy speaker Arif Tayfour warned that these talks have brought out internal divisions within many lists, which could drag out the process.

Iraq’s politicians have already taken eight months to just reach a power sharing agreement, and can be expected to take several more before a cabinet is finally formed. In total, it could be almost a year before Maliki has a new government put together. The whole ordeal has taken so long because of the many divisions amongst Iraq’s parties. There were disagreements amongst the Shiite lists over Maliki’s return to power. Allawi remains bitter that he was not named to form a new coalition, and still may walk away while other members of his National Movement take up new jobs. In the end though, the new regime will look and act a lot like the old one. The most important positions will be divided along ethnosectarian lines, and because so many parties are involved there will be little consensus to do much of anything about the major problems the country faces.


Aswat al-Iraq, “Iraq’s Defense and Interior Ministries won’t be assigned for independent elements, al-Iraqiya MP says,” 11/22/10

Elaph, Al-Hayat, Al-Zaman, Al-Mada, “Maliki, To Be Officially Designated To Form Iraqi Government, Is Already In Action,” MEMRI Blog, 11/22/10

Al-Hafar, Hasoun, “Lawmaker: Strategic Council to be in the ministerial Council,” AK News, 11/21/10

Al-Jader, May, “Political blocs lay claims on Iraqi ministries,” AK News, 11/21/10

Al-Sabah, Al-Zaman, “Emerging Plan for Shape of New Government in Iraq,” MEMRI Blog, 11/23/10

Uragency, “Close Al-Maliki Aide: No Decision on Assignment of Ministries,” MEMRI Blog, 11/17/10

British Forces Given 6-Month Extension To Stay In Iraq

(Christian Science Monitor)
100 British Marines stationed in Basra were due to leave Iraq at the beginning of December 2011 because their mandate to train the Iraqi Navy was about to expire. Renewing the arrangement had not been given any attention because the country’s politicians have not formed a government eight months after parliamentary elections. To rectify the situation, the caretaker cabinet approved a 6-month extension on November 22 for the English forces to stay. They are stationed at the Um Qasr Navy base and are responsible for helping the Iraqis protect two oil terminals in Basra that are responsible for up to 80% of the nation’s exports. They plan on staying until January 2012 if the two can work out a long-term deal. That’s when the Defense Ministry believes that the Iraqi Navy will be able to handle the oil terminals themselves.


Lando, Ben, “British Navy trainers remain at oil terminals,” Iraq Oil Report, 11/22/10

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Iraq’s President Giving Maliki As Much Leeway As Possible To Form A New Government

When Iraq’s parliament met on November 11, 2010 for only the second time since the March vote, newly re-elected President Jalal Talabani asked Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to return to office. Since then Talabani has not officially given a letter to Maliki anointing him the prime minister nominee. Both leaders are trying to drag out the process to give more time for negotiations to put together a new government.

The President has fifteen days to notify Maliki that he has the authority to form a ruling coalition, and then Maliki has thirty days to do so. Members of Maliki’s State of Law along with other politicians are worried that the premier may not be able to work out deals with the leading lists over the distribution of ministries and other top posts in the allotted time. Even though the major coalitions have come up with a point system using the number of seats they won, which can be used on positions that have been given numerical values based upon their importance, the horse-trading amongst the leaders is expected to be intense. In 2006, when Maliki formed his first government, it took two months to name all the major ministers. 

This year the differences are even more intense, especially with the deep distrust Iyad Allawi has of Maliki. The latter for example, has demanded that the yet to be created National Council for Strategic Policy be given executive powers and the right to veto the prime minister’s decisions, while members of State of Law say that it will only be an advisory panel. There may also be complications with ending the bans by the Accountability and Justice Commission of four members of Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement (INM). INM lawmakers have said that they won’t put forward names for the ministries until all of their demands in the power sharing agreement are approved by parliament. 

Despite the worries about time frames, they are largely meaningless in Iraq. The government should’ve been formed months ago after the first session of parliament, but politicians got around that by keeping the session open until November. Now President Talabani isn’t expected to send an official letter to Maliki until just before his fifteen days are up, giving the prime minister more time for talks. If no one agrees within the next thirty days afterwards, the negotiations will just continue since Maliki has proven he is the only game in town, and there was never an important deadline that Iraqis couldn’t break.


Alsumaria, “Askari: National Policy Council plays advisory role,” 11/20/10

Gwertzman, Bernard, “A Tenuous Deal in Iraq,” Council on Foreign Relations,” 11/18/10

Healy, Jack and Ghazi, Yasir, “Iraqi Leaders Delay New Government,” New York Times, 11/21/10

Karim, Ammar, “Iraq MPs meet as govt formation resumes,” Agence France Presse, 11/20/10

Karim, Karzan, “De-Baathification barred officials’ restoration unconstitutional, says lawmaker,” AK News, 11/20/10

Al-Rafidayn, Alsumaria News, Nakhelnews, “Al-Maliki May Face Considerable Difficulties Forming a New Government,” MEMRI Blog, 11/19/10

Uragency, “Close Al-Maliki Aide: No Decision on Assignment of Ministries,” MEMRI Blog, 11/17/10

Visser, Reidar, “Nujayfi, Talabani and Maliki – Plus Lots of Hot Air,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 11/11/10

Monday, November 22, 2010

NEW YORK TIMES VIDEO: Eid Al-Adha Festival In Iraq

British Aid To Iraqi Navy Headed For Abrupt End

British Marine trains two Iraqis on a patrol boat
England currently has 100 Royal Marines at the Um Qasr Naval Base in Basra province training and advising the Iraqi Navy. Because Iraq’s politicians have taken so long to form a new government, the Marines’ mandate to stay in the country is about to expire at the end of November 2010. That means they will all have to depart shortly afterward.

In late November 2009 Baghdad and London struck a deal to allow British forces to remain in Iraq to train the Iraqi Navy and Marines. The English forces main task was to help with the protection of the Basra and Khor Amaya oil terminals, which are responsible for up to 80% of Iraq’s petroleum exports. Together with the Iraqis, the Marines maintain a two mile exclusion zone around each terminal.

The two countries expected the British to stay until January 2012 when the Iraqi Navy would be equipped and trained to take over full responsibility for the port of Basra. That’s now in jeopardy because the mandate for the Marines is going to expire in just a few days. Since Iraq’s politicians haven’t even come up with a government yet, it’s unlikely that parliament will have the time to pass a new agreement with London. The United States, which also has sailors and marines stationed in Basra, said that they would take over the British responsibilities.


Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq June 2010,” 9/7/10

Lando, Ben, “UK Navy likely gone,” Iraq Oil Report, 11/19/10

Times of London, “British Navy leads the way as Iraqi sailors learn to safeguard nation’s oil trade,” 12/3/09

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Change List Makes A Power Play For The Deputy Premier Spot

On November 16, 2010 the Change List announced that it wanted the deputy prime minister position in the new government. It said that it was planning on holding talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over the matter, and also wanted other senior positions. This is a major attempt by the new Kurdish opposition group to establish itself as a national party in Iraqi politics. It’s also daring since Change only won eight seats in the March parliamentary election.

Change does have a slight chance of achieving this goal. First, when the Maliki government was originally put together in 2006 the leading posts were divided up along ethnosectarian lines. Thus, while a Shiite was made premier, his two deputies were a Sunni, Rafi Issawi, and a Kurd, Barhem Saleh. (1) This time the major lists are discussing a point system where each party gets a number of points based upon how many seats they won, and those go towards the posts, each of which cost a certain amount. Ethnicity and sect are still playing a role however. The premier will remain a Shiite, the president a Kurd, and the speaker of parliament a Sunni. Other spots are likely to be divvied up in a similar manner, which means the Change List, as a Kurdish party, could get the deputy premier. Second, Maliki may want to play the Change List against the Kurdish Coalition, which is made up of the other winning Kurdish parties. Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani played a leading role in breaking the deadlock over forming a government. As a result, the Coalition is demanding a large say in the new ruling coalition. Maliki may try to temper its victory a bit by giving the Change List the deputy premiership.

Change was formed in the summer of 2009. It was the newest opposition party in Kurdistan, and led by the co-founder of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Nishurwan Mustafa. It won 25 seats in the July 2009 Kurdistan regional parliament elections, and then eight in the March national vote. It joined the Kurdish Coalition afterward, but then split on October 31 due to a dispute over a bill for provincial balloting in Kurdistan. It seemed like Change would rejoin the Coalition at first, but then on November 15 it said it would remain separate

Asking for the deputy premier is a bold move. Change needs to make demands like that if it wants to remain relevant for such a small party in parliament. It can also establish its independence from the Kurdish Coalition, as well as offer itself as an alternative. Only time will tell whether Change’s plan is successful or not.


1. O’Hanlon, Michael and Campbell, Jason, “Iraq Index,” Brookings Institution, 11/20/08


American Contractor, “In Iraq Its All About The Points,” 11/16/10

DeYoung, Karen, “As Iraqis forged agreement, U.S. remained influential, administration says,” Washington Post, 11/13/10

Al-Jaff, Wissam, “Gorran declares independence from Kurdish bloc in Iraqi government,” AK News, 11/15/10
- “Gorran to demand deputy PM post,” AK News, 11/16/10

Mohammed, Hazhar, “Arrangements for Gorran to return to KBC,” AK News, 11/14/10

O’Hanlon, Michael and Campbell, Jason, “Iraq Index,” Brookings Institution, 11/20/08

Al-Rafidyan, “Iraq Leaders Reach Deal On Forming A New Government,” MEMRI Blog, 11/11/10

Taha, Yaseen, “a crisis conference,” Niqash, 6/1/10

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Iraq Celebrates Eid al-Adha

Iraq, like the rest of the Muslim world, is currently celebrating Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice. Besides prayers, this period is a national holiday, and Iraqis are taking the time to be with family and friends. Below are pictures from the New York Times and the Associated Press of people enjoying this time together. They provide a stark contrast to the usual stories emanating out of the country of political instability and continued violence.

Iraqis enjoying their time off at the Al Zawraa Park, Baghdad (New York Times)
 Two women enjoying a ride at Al Zawraa (New York Times)
Families at Al Zawraa (New York Times)
Another ride at the Baghdad park (New York Times)
Iraqis dancing and playing music in a Baghdad Park (New York Times)
The music continues until the sun goes down (New York Times)
Dinner at the park after dusk (New York Times)
Families at a slide in a Baghdad park (New York Times)

Associated Press, "Iraqi man greets policeman before prayers," 11/16/10
- "Iraqi Sunni Muslims gather for prayers," 11/16/10

Fukada, Shiho, "The Feat of Sacrifice in Iraq," At War Blog, New York Times, 11/18/10

Draft Of The National Council for Strategic Policies Bill

Below is the text of the bill for the new National Council for Strategic Policies. It was originally printed in Baghdad Magazine.

"Iraqi paper of the National Council for Strategic Policy"
Text proposed by the draft Law of the National Council

Enacted the National Council for strategic policy law after the election of the Speaker and his deputies and the election of the president candidate and ask the largest parliamentary bloc to form a government, before establishing the new ministry at a meeting of the House of Representatives.

Draft Law of the National Council for the Strategic Policy

Article I:
Is an independent body in accordance with Article 108 of the permanent constitution on behalf of the National Council of Strategic Policy.

Article II:
First: The Council has a Secretary General or the President be agreed upon within the presidencies of the country's Supreme, the President and his two deputies, Prime Minister and his deputies, the President of the House of Representatives and his deputies, before establishing the new ministry at a meeting of the House of Representatives.
Second: The Council shall have full-time secretariat and the headquarters and a brigade in a presidential Balriasat like three.
Thirdly: the budget of the Board independent, provide the secretariat of the Council, like the three presidencies, and recognizes in law the general budget for this year.

Article III:
The council, who chairs the meetings of the President or the President or Secretary-General, as members of the Vice-President and the Speaker and the Deputy Prime Minister and his deputies, the President of the Federal Council and the President of the Supreme Judicial Council and the President of the Kurdistan Region and the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Minister of Defense and the Interior Minister and Minister of National Security and Foreign Minister and Minister of Finance and the Minister Justice and the intelligence chief and Minister of Peshmerga and the Interior Minister in the Kurdistan Regional Government, and you can add other members of the non-executive directors as observers, not entitled to vote on resolutions of the Council.

Article IV:
First: The Council will be part of the executive branch and replace the Board of the National Security Advisory Council of Ministers, in addition to its other missions.
Secondly: The ministers, each according to its competence in the presence of necessary meetings in the fields of competence, that does not contradict with the work of the Council of Ministers, with the full commitment issued by the Council, including resolutions.
Third: The Council has a panel of advisers in the fields of the different jurisdictions like the prime minister, in the terms of reference for political affairs, foreign and domestic policies and economic and monetary affairs and security affairs, military, energy matters - oil - gas - electricity - water, environment and food security, and any tasks or other functions.

Functions of the Council

Article V:
Functions of the Council include the following:
First: developing common visions and responsible in the management of files in the strategic institutions of the state supreme economic and political issues, security and services, energy and other, in harmony and integration of plans and programs according to the map of a comprehensive development with binding to the executive.
Second: to set a timetable to national priorities and follow up their implementation, in the forefront of completing the requirements of removing Iraq from Chapter VII.
III: identification of a priority list of laws and legislation by the House of Representatives to achieve the implementation of plans and strategic objectives, and evaluate the system of legislation and laws in force for the diagnosis of citizen conflict taking place in the legislation of the Iraqi state in the stages of its history and the abolition of laws and decrees and instructions issued by the former regime that are inconsistent with the public interest, in coordination with the legislative authority.
IV: controls and standards to ensure accurate scientific achievement of harmony between the public budget allocations and priorities of the plans, programs and strategic objectives.
Fifth: to find effective solutions for all makes it easier for the executive branch and its duties to remove barriers to performance.
Sixth: to reach a common vision in regards to constitutional amendments to ensure that exceeded the gap that has emerged in the previous phase and enhances the efficiency of the current political system and has met the requirements of the general stability and progress in the next phase.
VII: evaluating the performance of the judiciary in order to achieve the goals of justice and ensure the commitment of its articles of the Constitution and the laws in force and the state of stability so as to enhance security.

Functions of the Council

Article VI:
First: to develop and propose high-level policy of the State in various fields and follow up the implementation of these policies from the relevant authorities in charge of regulating the relationship between Iraq and the international community.
Second: To regulate matters of internal security and external security to ensure the stability of Iraq and the state's ability to deter or repel aggression of any kind or his time.
Third: the organization of the various economic actors in order to achieve prosperity and decent life for citizens in the areas of oil and gas, industry, agriculture, trade, monetary policy, financial policy, investment.
Fourth: Regulating private actors to ensure social cohesion (social security) in its broadest sense, which relates to services, environment, human rights, political, cultural, relief, human development.
Fifth: The policies established by the Supreme Council is the basis on which executive agencies which develop operational plans, each according to his competence, and to ensure the achievement of high politics.

Article VII:
Council resolutions enacted that do not conflict with the constitutional powers of the President and the Prime Minister.

Article VIII:
First: When the Council resolution on 80% of the votes of the members of the Council shall be a non-mandatory.
Second: When the decision of the Council on 100% of the votes of council members issued by a law of the Council of Representatives shall be mandatory.

Article IX:
First: does not work with any text or the decision issued by the Board inconsistent with the permanent constitution.
Second: the right to cancel the House of Representatives of the National Council if necessary, in its third election.


Baghdad News Network, "An Iraqi Paper Of The National Council for Strategic Policies," November 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

More Information On Iraq’s New National Council for Strategic Policies

As part of the power sharing agreement worked out between Iraq’s major lists, Iyad Allawi of the Iraqi National Movement is to head a new body, the National Council for Strategic Policies. The specific powers and operation of the Council are unknown as it has not even been discussed in parliament, let alone created, but politicians have laid out the broad make-up of the group.

The National Council will replace the existing National Security Council. The Coalition Provisional Authority created that latter body in April 2004. It was originally called the Ministerial Committee for National Security. It included the Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Finance ministers, the senior military advisers, the head of the National Intelligence service, and the national security adviser. When Maliki became prime minister in 2006 he eventually asserted his control over the Council. In April 2009 the cabinet endorsed a draft law to get rid of the Council and replace it with a new national security committee, but parliament never passed the bill. That finally appears to be happening when the National Council is created.

The Council for Strategic Policies is allegedly going to cover all of the major issues in the country. Those include local and foreign policies, economic and monetary affairs, the military, natural resources, power, food, and the environment. The Council will have 20-members, including the leaders of the top four lists, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law, Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, the Sadrist led Iraqi National Alliance, and the Kurdish Coalition, the premier Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi, the head of the Supreme Court, and other political leaders. Even though it’s not mentioned, top ministers like Defense, Interior, Oil and Foreign Affairs are likely to be included as well.

The Council is supposed to have the authority to both make policy, and reverse decisions. Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani told the press that any unanimous decision by the Council will automatically be carried out. Any decision with an 80% vote will be sent to the ministries, cabinet, or parliament for a final decision. The need for a unanimous vote seems to undermine the Council’s ability to be really effective. It would seem nearly impossible to get all the members to agree on any major issue given the fractious nature of Iraqi politics. That would also mean that the Council’s alleged veto power that Allawi has talked about would largely exist on paper only, rather than in practice. Others have argued that the constitution would have to be changed if the Council were to really gain the power to veto decisions. Maliki has also portrayed the body as one that will advise him, not make decisions.

Whether these early details will actually be put into place is not known yet. Parliament has gone on a break for a religious holiday until November 21, and wont take up the matter until afterward. On the positive side, the Sadrists have said that they support the idea of the Council. That would provide a powerful ally to Allawi to make this new entity a reality. On the other hand, if the Council needs all the members to agree to make a binding decision and will require a constitutional amendment to have veto authority, it will quickly devolve into a debating club rather than a real executive body. That would upset Allawi who wants real power sharing,  and could lead him to drop out of the government. That could break up his list, as a large number of lawmakers want to participate in the new ruling coalition, and leave Allawi out in the cold.


Alsumaria, “Allawi does not expect new government to last,” 11/17/10

Faraj, Salam, “Iraqi MPs salvage power-sharing pact after walk-out,” Agence France Presse, 11/13/10

Gwertzman, Bernard, "A Tenuous Deal in Iraq," Council on Foreign Relations, 11/18/10

International Crisis Group, “Loose Ends: Iraq’s Security Forces Between U.S. Drawdown And Withdrawal,” 10/26/10

Al-Isaa, Fadi, “Council of Strategic Policies is a safeguard against autocracy and exclusion says Sadrist MP,” AK News, 11/17/10

Jaf, Wisam, “Strategic policies council inclusive, says lawmaker,” AK News, 11/17/10

Nahrain, Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Al-Sabah, Nakhelnews, Al-Zaman, “The Brokered Agreement To Break The Stalemate In Iraq,” MEMRI Blog, 11/15/10

Ottaway, Marina and Kaysi, Danial Anas, "Iraq: Can flawed political agreement be implemented?" Babylon & Beyond, Los Angeles Times, 11/19/10

Al-Rafidyan, “Iraq Leaders Reach Deal On Forming A New Government,” MEMRI Blog, 11/11/10

Al-Shemmari, Yazn, “Iraqiya announces its participation in parliament,” AK News, 11/12/10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

World Bank Report: Iraq Still Has A Bad Business Environment

Iraq is desperate to rebuild after years of wars and sanctions. It is trying to attract foreign investors and sign contracts to boost its oil, gas, and electricity industries, as well as expand its infrastructure. Unfortunately the country has a very difficult business environment, and despite promises of reforms it is towards the bottom of the World Bank’s ranking of countries.

In the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2011” report, Iraq was ranked 166 out of 183 countries. The World Bank found that hiring and firing workers was rather easy, and their pay relatively low at an average of $115.50 per month for a 19 year old. The problems came with starting and ending a firm in the country, and trading goods across borders. Iraq was ranked 174 out of 183 in ease of starting a business. There are 11 procedures companies have to go through that on average take 77 days to complete. There are 14 steps to get a construction permit, that take 215 days to finish. Registering a business on the other hand, was about average in the world, ranked at 96 out of 183, with only five procedures, taking 51 days. Getting credit was difficult, with a rank of 168 out of 183. Legal rights, protecting investments, and enforcing contracts were weak, while taxes were minimal. When it came to ease of closing a business Iraq was the worst in the world at 183 out of 183. Importing and exporting were also difficult and costly. Ease of exporting was ranked 179 out of 183 with ten documents taking 80 days, and a cost of $3,550 per container. Papers for importing took an average of 83 days and bringing in a container costs $3,650. Iraq ended up with the worst mark of any nation in the region.

Iraq’s 2011 score was actually worse than its 2010 one. That year Iraq was ranked 153 out of 183 overall. The difficulties of investment, starting and closing businesses, trading, etc. were all still there. Dealing with construction permits, getting credit, paying taxes, and enforcing contracts all worsened from 2010 to 2010, while registering property and exporting improved. 

Even though Iraq moved down the World Bank’s list this year, its scores weren’t much changed from the previous one. While five indicators got lower rankings in 2010 compared to 2011, the differences weren’t much. It would appear then that Iraq’s business environment hasn’t gotten markedly worst, but that other countries below it moved up the list, pushing Baghdad farther down. That still doesn’t change the fact that Iraq’s economy is full of problems. It still has a state-run, centralized economy from the Saddam days. Rules and regulations are difficult to understand and contradictory, investment laws limit foreign control and incentives, and the bureaucracy is slow and paper based. All of these contribute to Iraq’s low scores on the World Bank’s report, and have kept many foreign businesses away from most industries except for energy and construction. All of these procedures need to be reformed if Iraq ever hopes to bring in the foreign capital and known how it desperately needs to rebuild itself.

World Bank Rankings Of Iraq
2009 150 out of 183
2010 153 out of 183
2011 166 out of 183


Economist, “No promised land at the end of all this,” 3/4/10

World Bank Group, “Doing Business 2010 Iraq,” 2009

World Bank and International Finance Corporation, “Doing Business 2011 Making a Difference for Entrepreneurs,” World Bank, 11/4/10

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

AL-SABAH CARTOON: Patriotism Suffering In Iraq

"Political Sectarianism" and "Political Ethnicity" pushing "Patriotism" off the bench
Source: Al-Sabah, Iraq, 11/13/10

White House Warned U.S. Company About Oil Deal With Kurds As Another Signs A New Contract

The Houston-based Marathon Oil signed a deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in October 2010 to develop four oil fields in Irbil province. Marathon is the fourth largest combined petroleum company and fifth largest refiner in the United States. The White House warned the corporation about doing business in Kurdistan just as another U.S. firm inked a deal with the Kurds.

The Obama administration advised Marathon Oil not to invest in the KRG last month. U.S. policy is to tell American companies not to sign petroleum deals with the Kurds because there is no national oil law between them and Baghdad. They told Marathon that they are taking a risk working in Kurdistan without the central government’s okay. The Oil Ministry has called all oil contracts with the KRG illegal.

That apparently didn’t stop Arkansas-based Murphy Oil from finalizing a deal with the KRG as well. On November 4, Murphy Oil said that its subsidiary Murphy Central Dohuk Oil Co. had come to an agreement with the Kurds to explore the Central Dohuk field. They will have a 50% interest in a joint venture with the KRG. They plan to start exploratory work by 2012.

Marathon and Murphy are the seventh and eighth American oil companies to enter Kurdistan. Because Baghdad opposes foreign firms operating in the KRG, and all the work is largely looking for oil deposits rather than actually pumping petroleum, only small to medium-sized companies operate in Kurdistan right now. They are hoping that the Kurds will have enough influence in the new Iraqi government to come to some type of understanding over exports. If that happens businesses could switch to oil production. If not, Marathon and Murphy will spend the next couple years poking around Irbil and Dohuk marking oil fields with little to show for it.


Iraq Business News, “Murphy Oil to Explore in Kurdistan,” 11/5/10

Iraq Oil Report, “US Authorities Advised Marathon Oil Against KRG Deal,” Iraq Business News, 11/3/10

Norway’s DNO Dramatically Cuts Back Oil Production In Kurdistan

Norway’s DNO runs the Tawke oil field in Dohuk in a joint venture with Turkey’s Genel Enerji and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The Norwegian company has dramatically cut back its production at the facility because it doesn’t have an export license. 

From June to September 2009 Baghdad and the KRG agreed to allow the two operating fields in Kurdistan, Tawke and Taq Taq to sell their oil abroad. DNO ramped up production to a peak of 50,000 barrels a day during that period. The deal eventually broke down over who would pay DNO and the other foreign companies. 

Since then, Tawke has only been operating to meet Kurdish demand. Currently the region is awash in oil and gas, and petroleum prices are only a third of global prices at $25-$30 a barrel. Production has dropped as a result to 4,800 barrels a day in March 2010, and 4,000 barrels in November.

DNO is hoping that a new ruling coalition will mean that the regional and central governments will be able to come to an understanding about exports again. The Kurds have included petroleum as one of their major demands in supporting Nouri al-Maliki for a second term as premier. That’s the only way that DNO can hope to make its money back. From July to September it lost $21 million in operating costs.


Bloomberg, “Genel Enerji sells northern Iraq oil stakes,” 10/17/10

Daood, Mayada, “new government must negotiate with krg on oil,” Niqash, 8/13/10

DeYoung, Karen, “As Iraqis forged agreement, U.S. remained influential, administration says,” Washington Post, 11/13/10

Holter, Mikael, “UPDATE 2-DNO says new Iraq govt to boost its oil export push,” Reuters, 11/11/10

El-Tablawy, Tarek and Barzanji, Yahya, “Oil smuggling to Iran embarrassment for Iraq,” Associated Press, 7/13/10

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Iraqi Deaths Largely Unchanged In October 2010

Iraqi deaths in October 2010 were around the same level as the previous month. With forming a new government dominating most of the news coming out of the country, neither the Iraqi ministries nor the Associated Press reported their death counts for October. Iraq Body Count recorded 302 deaths last month, only slightly above September's 242. Icasualties had 185 deaths, only 11 more than September's 174. That averaged out to 7.8 deaths per day, hardly changed from 7.7 in September.

There were only two significant attacks in October. On the last day of the month Islamic State of Iraq fighters stormed Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, holding 100 people hostage for four hours. Iraqi forces ended up re-taking the Christian church, but 58 people were left dead and 75 wounded. The other major incident was a suicide bomb attack upon a café in a Kurdish neighborhood of the Baladrooz district of Diyala province that killed 30 and wounded 50. The rest of the casualties for the month were a mix of roadside, car, and sticky bombs, and shootings, which have unfortunately become the norm in Iraq.

Overall, the numbers show that despite warnings of increased violence because Iraq still does not have a government eight months after its March parliamentary elections, security has not significantly deteriorated. In fact, despite two jumps in July and August when the average number of daily deaths rose to 14.9 and 13.8 respectively, casualties have remained rather steady since January 2010. So far, the country has averaged 9.9 deaths per day in 2010. That's barely changed from 2009 when the average was 10.1.

Monthly Death Counts
Month Iraq Body Count Icasualties Iraqi Ministries Associated Press 
Avg. # Of Deaths Per Day
Jan. 10 


Aswat al-Iraq, “9 detained over Baladruz blast,” 10/30/10
- “Baghdad church attack leaves 133 casualties,” 11/1/10


Iraq Body Count

Latif, Nizar, “Iraqis fear al Qa’eda revival as 52 die in church siege,” The National, 11/2/10

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why No One Trusts Maliki: The Example Of Diyala

Diyala Province (Wikimedia)

One of the reasons why it has taken so long to put together a new Iraqi government is because no one trusts Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. All of the major parties have accused him of autocratic tendencies and abusing his power. The premier’s use of the security forces for his own political ends in Diyala province is a perfect example.

The problems between Maliki and Diyala started over the 2009 provincial elections. Back in 2007 the Iraqi Accordance Front, led by the Iraqi Islamic Party, began building up its popular base for the vote by brokering alliances with various Sons of Iraq (SOI) groups that were emerging in the governorate at that time. Maliki immediately attempted to intervene using a carrot and stick approach. He used the cover of anti-insurgent campaigns in the province to arrest members of the Islamic Party and their friends in the SOI, while at the same time attempting to pry away SOI units by offering them government jobs. In August 2008 for example, security forces from Baghdad arrested Hussein Zubeidi, the head of the security committee on the council, who was working with the SOI. The man who accused him ended up saying that he made up his charges, yet Zubeidi is still being held in a prison to this day.

Maliki’s plan failed as the Accordance Front and its allies ended up winning the 2009 balloting. The Front won nine seats out of 29 on the provincial council, followed by six by Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Iraqi National Project, six by the Kurdish Alliance made up of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), three by Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National List, two by Maliki’s State of Law, two by the Supreme Council’s Diyala Coalition, and one by former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s National Reform Party. The Accordance Front, Supreme Council, and Kurdish Alliance quickly re-formed the ruling coalition in the council that took power in 2005, shut out Maliki’s list, and elected a council head and governor. That did little to end Maliki’s campaign against his political opponents in the governorate.

When the newly elected politicians met to select a governor in April 2009 they had a surprise waiting for them. Members of the Baghdad Brigade came into the meeting with arrest warrants for three Sunni politicians. A U.S. diplomat intervened, and the soldiers left. They returned the next month with warrants for council member Abdul Jabbar Ibrahim Khazraji of the Accordance Front and Abu Ali, an SOI leader in Diyala’s capital Baquba. The head of the council went to call the U.S. military for help, but when he returned Khazraji and Abu Ali had already been detained and were headed for a prison in Baghdad. The Americans got Abu Ali released, but Khazraji is still in jail to this day. The incident sent several other members of the governorate’s council into hiding afraid that they too would be arrested. Sure enough, in November, the second deputy governor and Accordance Front member Mohammed al-Jabouri was also picked up.

Maliki’s campaign against Diyala’s politicians continued into 2010. Before the March parliamentary election, a candidate for Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, Najm Abdullah Harbi was arrested for homicide. A judge ordered him released for lack of evidence, but then he was re-arrested for alleged ties to Al Qaeda. Harbi ended up winning 28,000 votes and a seat in parliament, but he is still in prison. Three other National Movement candidates went into hiding as a result, fearing that they too would be picked up. They didn’t re-emerge until all of them won seats, which gave them political immunity. After the election the deputy governor Furat Mohammed Hussein Jassim was also picked up, and is still being held.

Diyala is a perfect example of Prime Minister Maliki’s abuse of power. Again and again he intervened in the province’s politics, using the security forces. An American adviser to the governorate’s council from 2009 to early 2010 said that Maliki’s actions were threatening Sunnis’ belief in the political process. What they were learning was that Maliki would never allow them to have a real say in the local government, even if they played by the rules and got elected to office. The premier made all of them afraid that they could be arrested at any time, and even if they put up a legal defense after being detained they would be held indefinitely. It’s events like these that made negotiations over a new government so difficult. Political parties have little faith in Maliki, and they want concrete promises from State of Law in writing, top posts, and hopefully legislation. Until then they only have Maliki’s word that he is willing to share power. That’s not good enough for some such as Allawi, which is dragging out the process even more.


International Crisis Group, “Loose Ends: Iraq’s Security Forces between U.S. Drawdown and Withdrawal,” 10/26/10

Knights, Michael and McCarthy, Eamon, “Provincial Politics in Iraq: Fragmentation or New Awakening?” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 2008

Parker, Ned, “Diyala struggles to overcome sectarian bad blood,” Los Angeles Times, 10/25/10
- “Machiavelli in Mesopotamia,” World Policy Journal, Spring 2009

This Day In Iraqi History - Jul 19 Qasim started crackdown on Communists hoping to limit their power

  1733 Safavid siege of Baghdad ended by Ottoman relief force